Apple has now hired Nike Fuelband developer and fitness fanatic Jay Blahnik adding to speculations that the iWatch may take on a fitness-centric approach that could compete with devices like the Jawbone Up, Nike Fuelband, and Fitbit while adding smartwatch functionality like those from Pebble and the now defunct Moto ACTV from Motorola. Confirmation of Blahnik’s hiring was confirmed by the fitness expert himself via Twitter. Blahnik will be leaving the fitness industry entirely in his new role at Apple, according to 9to5 Mac, which had previously reported on speculations that Blahnik would be joining the iWatch team.
In the past, it was reported that Apple had dedicated a 100-person development team for the iWatch, and more recently it was rumored that the company was hiring employees with a fitness background.
In addition to targeting the fitness industry, Apple also made a high profile recent hire from the fashion industry in the form of the head of the luxury fashion house Yves St. Laurent.
Discussing wearable computing, a category to which the iWatch will belond to, Apple CEO Tim Cook had said in the most recent appearance of the All Things D D11 conference that the Google Glass form factor isn’t it though Cook was optimistic about the computing category as a whole in the opportunities that it would provide.
Apple had also acquired Passif, a California-based company known for low-powered semiconductors that could be used in the iWatch smartwatch. The iPhone-maker has also been filing for the iWatch trademark in a number of countries across the world. There are also hints in iOS 7 source code for an iWatch.
As smartphone saturation is beginning to plateau in markets like the U.S., companies like Apple, Google, and Samsung are beginning to explore new computing categories with products that products that span the home, car, and body.
The hiring of Blahnik may help Apple expand into the fitness category while at the same time creating a fashionable product that users would want to wear all the time thanks to the hire from Yves St. Laurent. This is an area where Google Glass has been criticized, though Google is trying to play up the tech chic appeal of Glass with a recent 12-page advertisement for the wearable glasses in Vogue magazine’s September issue.
Blahnik’s resume includes work on a range of fitness apps for Nike, Nike+ Kinect training, and the Fuelband.
There are high hopes that Apple will be able to change the wearable computing category, and it’s rumored iWatch could debut by 2014, if not by the end of the year. Rival Samsung is rumored to be debuting its Galaxy Gear smartwatch as early as next month alongside the Galaxy Note 3 phablet at the IFA show in Berlin.